News: 'America's Battalion,' 'Kings of Battle' return from unit deployment program
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Marines and sailors from two units recently returned to Marine Corps Base Hawaii just in time for the holidays.
Members of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, returned Dec. 16 while India and Kilo Companies, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, arrived Dec. 13, 14 and 16, 2013.
On all three days, “America’s Battalion” landed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Boeing 767s, and escorted to MCB Hawaii by the Patriots Guard Riders on roaring motorcycles.
The riders are part of an all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring first responders, honorably discharged veterans and fallen service members. The welcome continued at Marine Corps Base Hawaii as families were waiting, with flower leis and “welcome home” signs.
“My wife made me a special sign for when we got back,” said Sgt. Caylen Vetter, unit movement coordination center chief with 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines.
“Before I left, there were professional photographers that took a picture of me in all of my combat gear posing with my daughter in front of a flag. When we got back from the UDP, we saw it hanging
in front of my house and everyone thought it was hilarious.”
Charlie Battery deployed as part of a unit deployment program to Okinawa, Japan for more than six months. The battery’s accomplishments included shooting more than 1,200 artillery rounds, and participating in a artillery relocation program at Yausubetsu Maneuver Area. They also performed community service, painting a church.
“The experience of being in a different country (was beneficial) because we (interacted) with the local nationals,” said Gunnery Sgt. Alejandro Alaniz, battery gunnery sergeant, 1st Bn., 12th Marines, and native of Brownsville, Texas.
India and Kilo Companies also deployed to Okinawa, Japan in July as
part of a UDP. The program exists as part of the president’s increased presence in the Western Pacific.
Lima Company, which deployed in May, finished their deployment Sept. 26, and returned to Hawaii ahead of the rest of the battalion. Marines and sailors with Lima Company were based with Marine Rotational Force Darwin in Australia to build camaraderie and increase interoperability between the Australian Defence Force and the U.S. Armed Forces.
While deployed, “America’s Battalion” participated in numerous exercises and trained in four different counties during a seven-week span; Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Through the rest of the UDP, they also trained in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mongolia, Tonga and South Korea.
Much of the UDP’s focus was reintegrating jungle warfare into current training tactics.
“(We’re) in a completely different environment than what (we’re) used to,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Morgan, training noncommissioned officer with Kilo Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines.
“(We’re) used to being in a desert-type environment, and a lot of what we did was jungle training. It’s harder to move around in the jungle compared to the desert, so you wear different gear and learn to pack lighter to make yourself more (mobile).”
One of the highlights of the unit’s deployment was conducting MV-22 Osprey operations with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force.
“We integrated our techniques with their tactics to form a combined effort in getting our guys on the ground, (securing) the (landing zone) and assault(ing) the objective,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Toomer, rifle platoon commander with Kilo Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines. “It was interesting seeing how the Japanese performed with the Marines. Everything went right during the ops, and we are glad we got the opportunity to work with them.”
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